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Theory of Nationalism - general studies

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--- Quote from: Mogul on Mon, Oct 29, 2007, 01:06 ---The Gay people are not in danger of becoming culturally isolated or self-centered. The opposit is, and always was the case: we know too litlle about our history, and we definitely devote not enough time and ressources for creation and consuming Gay culture. Whereas straight cultural values are being passed from generation to generation at a canter, the search for Gay culture always requires serious efforts, defeating cultural dilution and oppression. Too many Gays, unfortunately, consider it much easier to embrace the „general“ (i.e. straight) culture. Even more regretable is when some learned homosexuals attempt to discourage Gays from learning more of Gay culture -- they must be thinking our culture were somehow inferior to the „so-much-more“ straight culture. The reason those folks find the mere thought of thriving Gay culture so repulsive isbecause they think it is not good enough to replace straight culture in us.
--- End quote ---

This is a very important point. Mr. Altman's arguments might be interpreted to favor a general world-wide culture, we might assume that he is an internationalist opposed to any national identities, but he has not really argued anything of the kind in this essay.

Time and time again these sorts of arguments are wielded against Gay culture and Gay identity, but one does not see too much fervor in these same people's arguing against any other identity. I think what we have here is simple homophobia -- they hate and are repulsed by anything Gay and will hang this contempt on the hook of whatever argument they can find to make themselves seem reasonable. Self-loathing homosexuals very often take this internationalist stance to argue for their own cultural extinction, but they almost never argue for any other culture's extinction at the same time. Now, there really are internationalists in the world, and they do quite freely argue for one humanity at the expense of everyone... even some Gay internationalists. Even there, though, it is clear that there is an added layer of contempt to their motives.

Dennis Altman is correct on some details, but he is entirely wrong on the whole picture -- he „doesn’t see the wood for the trees.“ Certainly, a value of an individual book or film by a Gay author is to be judged on its artistic qualities in first line, but it is totally reasonable to expect that the sum of these works be of use to the Gay people. An individual Gay writer might specialize on cheap heterosexual love stories without being regarded a „traitor,“ but if this attitude becomes prevailing among most Gay authors, than something is definitely wrong with Gay people and their culture.

Altman is warning us against dangers of becoming „too Gay“ while in reality we, as a „nation“, are scratching at the edge of a cultural suicide. Already the few visible Gay artists / writers urged him to assume we were about to abandone the humanity.

The essay singles out Gay nationalism while paying no attention to other nationalisms. We can only speculate on his views on nationalism as ideology, which basically states that every people has an inalienable right to self-determination as a nation.

Apparently, he is one of the proponents of a unified „general“ culture, where blacks and whites, Gays and straights, men and women, olds and youngs, Nigerians and Japanese are equally interested in the same issues, reading the same books, listening the same music and eating the same food. In their view, the ideal world would be one without identities other than „human being“ and without any cultural borders, i.e. a world where the people create and consume the same culture independently of their origin or geographic location. These people find the very thought of multiple cultures repulsive. 

No question, the refusal to get acquainted with other cultures outside of one’s own does deprive an individual of the very treasures of the humanity at large. But to be able to get acquainted with those various different cultures, those cultures must exist. Eliminating differences, destroying specific cultures is hardly a suitable way to enrich the common human heritage.

The lifetime of an individual is limited, as is the personal energy to invest into cultural advancement. It is simply not within capabilities of any human being to read all those millions of books and watch all those thousands of films produced in hundreds of languages on this planet, year after year. The consequence of these limitations is that humans are forced to make conscious decisions about their reading and watching lists, and about the issues they pay close attention to. Individuals are always limited to some culture or other, the debatable issue therefore is solely what kind of culture do they choose. 

Certainly, in the course of their lives, humans often enrich their personal culture by elements of foreign cultures, be it by visiting an exotic food restaurant or by reading a novel of a renown outlandish writer. Nontheless, almost everyone has a sense of a core culture one belongs to. Most people make their core cultural choice by assuming just what is transferred to them by their parents and their nearby environment, that ominouse „general society“ and „general culture.“ They make this choice not upon any deliberate considerations on the worthyness of this or other culture, they simply take what is most near to them -- geographically, personally.

In the case of a Gay individual growing up anywhere, anytime, this „general society“ and „general culture“ always means „straight society“ and „straight culture“ of any coloration. We incorporate the straight culture with every pore during our childhood and teenage time, and the effects of this „cultural education“ will remain with us till we die. Thus, even if we decided to exclude any further reading any straight books (a foolish notion as it would be), we were simply not capable to „exclude“ straight culture from us.

Can the straights claim the same of themselves? What about their cultural diversity if compared to us? When did your parents, your brother or your sister, even your friends last time read a Gay book? Can, indeed, the majourity of straight people claim of themselves to having read a single Gay book in their lifetime? Do the names „Harry Hay“ and „Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs“ mean anything to them? (I doubt, btw, that even most of the ours have ever heard of these two merited gentlemen.)

The Gay people are not in danger of becoming culturally isolated or self-centered. The opposit is, and always was the case: we know too litlle about our history, and we definitely devote not enough time and ressources for creation and consuming Gay culture. Whereas straight cultural values are being passed from generation to generation at a canter, the search for Gay culture always requires serious efforts, defeating cultural dilution and oppression. Too many Gays, unfortunately, consider it much easier to embrace the „general“ (i.e. straight) culture. Even more regretable is when some learned homosexuals attempt to discourage Gays from learning more of Gay culture -- they must be thinking our culture were somehow inferior to the „so-much-more“ straight culture. The reason those folks find the mere thought of thriving Gay culture so repulsive isbecause they think it is not good enough to replace straight culture in us.

Mr. Altman's remark concerning Judy Grahn's "continuing and seamless history of gay people" is almost certainly a reference to her book "Another Mother Tongue" published in 1984. He also draws attention to "Lincoln" by Gore Vidal, and this book was also published in 1984. Allowing some small amount of time to pass for these works to become well-known, I would guess that this essay might have been written around 1985, though 1984 is not at all out of the question. The complete absence of any mention of AIDS (or it's clear effects on Gay literature... there was a whole swath of "elegiac" prose that emerged from a culture coming to terms with so much death) clearly puts the article in the pre-AIDS era... the sunset of it.

I am surprised at his mention of Mae West. She was certainly, unquestionably, a very "Gay" author (as far as sensibility goes). Comparing her to a poet (and Mr. Altman seems quite well versed in poetry) is rather unfair, I think. Of course there are straights with a sensibility that is more or less "gay" -- why would there not be? There just aren't that many of them. That Ms West's notorious flair IS notorious is clear evidence that her sensibility was just not all that straight. She stands out quite clearly from the mass of heterosexual authors in this regard.

Altman's observation that the seventies and the first half of the eighties has seen the creation of a gay 'nation' is quite correct... and he is also correct in drawing attention to this idea of "price." Why, yes... if you will be one thing, of necessity you may not be any number of others. If you will be Gay, then no... you don't get to be straight.

Altman's argument about this price can be summarized with the following quotations:

--- Quote ---Resistance to being classified as a gay artist comes Iargely from an older generation (one thinks also of Marguerite Yourcenar and Patrick White); it becomes easy for the postliberation generation to dismiss resistance as residual self-hate.
Ultimately, the idea of gay culture may turn out to be a reactionary idea, leading us to accept too easily that what we are and do is of relevance only to ourselves, rather than being part of the broad panorama of human behavior.
The problem is that we can become too obsessed with the internal life of one community to remember that the best art is that which transcends boundaries, reaching people outside the world from which it comes.
As the gay world expands, it becomes relatively easy to live in a cultural and intellectual ghetto, to see only plays and films, read only books and magazines that proclaim themselves gay or lesbian.
The price we have paid for the creation of a gay community may be a culture that is too inward-looking, too ready to accept unnecessarily limited ambitions.
--- End quote ---

Yeah, sure... "Universality" must, in some respects, fall by the wayside. If you will insist upon being "a Canadian," you just aren't "an American." Oh yes... what a painful thing that simple distinction must be... considering all the wailing that goes on about it.

What we are seeing here is the genesis of the "my sexuality is only one small part of who I am" mindset. Mr. Altman is in love with universality, entranced by the idea that he is a human like all humans. If you pin him down, he's probably an internationalist and just can't bear the thought of being "pigeon-holed" as an Australian.

Curiously, especially with Australians and Canadians (and it was I who brought up the Canadians), they tend to be among the first to bewail the heinous "cultural imperialism" of the US. Oh yes, they both of them watch much too much American TV -- that stuff will rot your brain if you're not careful. As a consequence, people in both countries (some, as usual, not all) have a greater familiarity with the judicial system current in American fiction than their own. I've witnessed more than a couple of Canadians go on about their "First Amendment rights" and I've seen this malady in one Australian thus far... it seems to be a condition that is contagious. They don't have them, you know... first amendment rights. That would be a US concept that has more than a little influence on US law; it's not something that even has any meaning in Australia or Canada outside of a quaint reference to a recurrent symbol found in popular works of fiction -- that US TV they watch too much of.

Always there is this idea that if you are Gay, or (heavens) 'too' Gay, you will be cutting yourself off from the entire panoply of non-gay human experience. What utter and complete rubbish. There is an assumption here that if it becomes "easy" to live in a Gay context, Gays who do so will somehow find that 'Gay life' so alluring that they will fall into a deep addiction and eschew all other things.

What a curious thought.

There are, of course, some individuals of any number of stripes who do just that... burrow deeply into some subculture and never emerge even once (except perhaps to glance out at the "wasteland" that is the rest of the world to confirm the wisdom of their rejection of it). I know Christians, for instance, who will have nothing but Christian programming on their television and radio, nothing but Christian books on their shelves, and nothing but Christian songs on their children's lips. What of them?

This particular essay brings up a completely unsupported argument, and sadly it is the core of the essay. All that talk about the best art transcending boundaries has nothing whatsoever to do with culture. It's arguable that the statement isn't even true of art (though I acknowledge that this long-standing feud has its adherants to that proposition). Altman is entirely correct when he suggests that the price of nationalism is a lost assimilationism. His hints at just what value is being abandoned when that price is paid are... unarticulated. I have no real idea what he's on about here. Being forced to guess (since he has not said), I must name him an assimilationist. Sure, a Gay Liberationist as well... I remember them. The Queer Theorists later ate them all. Back in the day though, these Liberationists were all about how they were going to save humanity from itself, how they were going to free the Gay people by freeing all people. After all, no one can be free until all people are free.

Unfortunately, the Liberationist finds himself on boggy ground in discussions of culture and 'nation'. These are not issues of Liberation. Mr. Altman seems to have such a dim view of human nature (by which I mean heterosexual nature) that he presumes, believing as he seems to that all people are people so Gay people must be just like all those other people, that a separated Gay culture would by its very nature exclude all things straight with the same savagery that straight culture has excluded all things Gay. Assimilationists make this argument a lot. It's nonsense.  The Gay sensibility, which Mr. Altman seems to have a passing acquaintance with, is remarkably eclectic. Gay culture, which Mr. Altman seems to have a passing acquaintance with, is also remarkably stratified, ordered... there is a place for just about anything, a niche for just about everything. No, you will not find your bondage gear and other amusing leather accessories in a bin next to the produce section of some grocery store. We seem to like them in their specialty shops. No, you will not find too awful many straight books in a classic Gay book store. No one thinks you don't buy straight books -- we just imagine that you will find them in a straight book store. We imagine that you buy your cous cous in some sort of grocery store, and so neglect to stock any among the books in the Gay book stores. (Bookstores, as it happens, like record stores, are struggling mightily to survive in the changed business climate of the post-Internet age. They are not doing so well.)

I think it's really very safe to say that, no matter how many Gay television stations might arise, no matter how separated the Gay community might make itself one day, Gays will still watch way too much American television... like the Canadians and the Australians do. No matter how many Gay dance clubs open up, the boys will still be throwing their arms up for the warbling of straight women. The idea that Gay separation would cut Gays off from other streams of human culture is just absurd; the idea that a simple Gay identity would do so is just pathological in its disconnection from any reality. I might well keep in mind that "philosophers often tend to mistake their imagined realities for the actual ones, and see looming dangers of excess where in truth only a nascent little bit of something is germinating," except that while this is an excellent excuse for Mr. Altman's essay, some twenty years later these very points remain current among assimilationists and they remain just as irrational.

Mr. Altman has, with the passage of time, been demonstrated wrong about this following point:

--- Quote ---Resistance to being classified as a gay artist comes largely from an older generation (one thinks also of Marguerite Yourcenar and Patrick White); it becomes easy for the postliberation generation to dismiss resistance as residual self-hate.
--- End quote ---

Why, we have twenty-something singers who do just this thing. Is it easy to dismiss this resistance as residual self-hate? Sure. It might even be an over-simplification. But what else can it be? All these earnest protestations that these creatures are reaching for universality are hollow. It's clear that what they're really doing is flinching from being Gay. They want to be some strange variety of "left-handed" straight person. I think that's kind of sad and kind of pathological. "Hate" may well not be the motivation here. Some other word might suffice -- disgust comes to mind. But yes... since this "residual self-hate" is also called "internalized homophobia," oh my yes... it's easy to dismiss 'resistance' as residual self-hate because that's manifestly what it is.

A rather sceptical article on Gay nationalism was written by Dennis Altman, an Australian Professor of Politics. Although Mr. Altman maintains that he is much more than that, he is probably one of the more important Gay activists in Australia. Among other things, he authored a book Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation. The essay is of a sort one is tempted to call it "controversial," it most probably appeared nearly at the same time as Burrough's article, in any case in the pre-AIDS age. While reading Mr Altman's essay one should keep in mind that philosophers often tend to mistake their imagined realities for the actual ones, and see looming dangers of excess where in truth only a nascent little bit of something is germinating.


by Dennis Altman

Just as we use the term sex to mean both sexuality and gender, so the term culture has both anthropological and aesthetic meanings. If we speak, for example, of gays and film we may have in mind both how a gay perspective informs the films of Fassbinder and Pasolini and a sociological explanation of why gay men are so attracted to the films of Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand.

There is clearly a gay culture in the anthropological sense. More accurately, there are a number of  overlapping cultures divided not only by gender -- with lesbians and gay men sharing ceratain, but only certain, aspecs of it -- but also by class, race and geography. I am thinking here of what is often referred to as “gay lifestyle” -- that whole set of values, assumptions, symbols and styles of behavior, from keyrings to camp humor, that allow us to believe we have more in common with someone else once we know he or she is gay.

Even this version of culture is Iimited to certain times and places; for all the interest in Sapphic Greece or medieval homoeroticism, it is unlikely that many of us would recognize ourselves in these worlds if some time machine were capable of plunging us backward into history. (I am less convinced than Judy Grahn of the continuing and seamless history of gay people, though I think she spins wonderful myths that become, in turn, part of our present culture -- in both senses of the word.) Even in today‘s world the social construction of gayness becomes very different once we move outside the Western world.

Once we think of culture in its aesthetic sense -- that is, once we argue that there is a certain sensibility in artistic production that stems from the homosexuality of the artist -- we are in real trouble. Even if we take two of our nineteenth-century icons, Oscar Wilde and Walt Whithman, it seems clear that Wildes style is more akin to that of W. S. Gilbert -- who was not gay -- than to Whitman‘s. Another example: Mae West‘s writing is much “gayer” than May Sarton‘s, even though Sarton is one of our leading gay writers.

In talking about the gay sensibility of art we are usually dealing with at least two variables: the sexuality of the artist and the subject matter of the art. Today these often coincide, as in lesbian coming-out novels and gay male photographs of Ieather bars. But they need not; homosexuality is not a theme reserved to homosexual artists -- nor should it be.

I wonder if there mightn’t be a case for abandoning the search for a gay sensibility altogether, and with it the sort of reductionism that makes us assume that the homosexuality of writers, artists and film makers is the most important thing about them. Such writers as James Baldwin and Gore Vidal have strenuously resisted these categories for the very good reason that they lead us to overlook the breadth of the author‘s work, to concentrate on Giovanni’s Room and Myra Breckinridge and ignore Go Tell It on the Mountain and Lincoln.

Resistance to being classified as a gay artist comes Iargely from an older generation (one thinks also of Marguerite Yourcenar and Patrick White); it becomes easy for the postliberation generation to dismiss resistance as residual self-hate. But there is a sense, too, in which the cult of asserting gayness through art has become a dead end, a refusal to recognize the extent to which sexuality is only one aspect of any human‘s identity; there is an oppressiveness to emphasizing it to the exclusion of all else as much as there is to ignoring it. Gay liberation implies both that we recognize the importance of our sexuality -- and that we transcend sexuality as a category used to divide people.

Much of contemporary gay culture is political in that it stems from a desire to describe and to assert  the sense of identity that many of us have come to associate with homosexuality. As part of this we have produced, over the past decade and a half, a quite remarkable set of cultural institutions -- publications, bookstores, choruses, theater groups, et cetera -- and for large numbers of people this provides the basis for a genuine sense of community. The problem comes when this sense of community, which is the anthropological form of culture, is confused with the aesthetic; and we start imposing demands on writers, artists and filmmakers to show the world not as they see it but as we want them to see it. (Gay films, for example, are too often judged in terms of whether they depict us in a way that is politically useful, not whether they are good films.)

Ultimately, the idea of gay culture may turn out to be a reactionary idea, leading us to accept too easily that what we are and do is of relevance only to ourselves, rather than being part of the broad panorama of human behavior. A gay cultural perspective should be one that never denies or hides homosexuality but that uses the experience of homosexuality to illuminate larger questions of the human condition (this is not a plea for the “after all, we‘re all sexual” line).

In an ideal world there would be no conflict between universality and community. In reality there is a precarous balance between developing a culture for ourselves and winning recognition as relevant within the broader world. Too often the latter seems to involve “selling out”; the Harvey Fierstein of Torch Song Trilogy is a much more radical figure than die Fierstein of La Cage aux Folles, which owes much of its success to the fact that it provides nongay audiences with the comforting illusion that homosexuality is an exotic costume party that has nothing to do with them. The largest challenge now facing gay artists is to find ways of reaching a larger audience without in any way compromising their particular gay experience.

The past decade and a half has seen the creation of a gay and lesbian “nation,” much as nineteenth-century Europe saw the creation of Czech and Romanian “nations.” To be gay has taken on meanings that go far beyond sexual and affectional preference, binding us through a whole set of communal, religious, political and social activities with other gays. (This is the anthropological sense of gay culture.) But nationalism has its price.

The problem is that we can become too obsessed with the internal life of one community to remember that the best art is that which transcends boundaries, reaching people outside the world from which it comes. We have argued in the past -- correcrly -- that nongay society offers us no space in which to develope any expression of our own. Our very success in carving out such space has meant that we too easily accept our books only being reviewed in gay publications and sold in gay stores or, perhaps, in the “gay section” of liberal bookshops. As the gay world expands, it becomes relatively easy to live in a cultural and intellectual ghetto, to see only plays and films, read only books and magazines that proclaim themselves gay or lesbian. (And often these terms become further barriers, so that gay women and men find nothing of interest in each other’s works.)

Let me end where l began. The films of Fassbinder and Pasolini are interesting precisely because they were made by men whose homosexuality infuses their work, and yet they are by no means confined to homosexual themes. (Both filmmakers died tragically, though in different ways, as victims of the death by violence and accident that remains too often a theme of gay life.) lt may be significant that neither was American, and that in America there is both more space for gay culture than anywhere else and more difficulty in moving easily between a gay and a wider cultural world. The price we have paid for the creation of a gay community may be a culture that is too inward-looking, too ready to accept unnecessarily limited ambitions.

First, a trivial question -- what year was this from? I note a reference to the "salutory demonstrations" against the Dan White verdict; this event is termed elsewhere as the "White Night Riot" and occurred on 21 May 1979. Generally the tone of the piece strikes me as coming from the very early 80s... the same time as Denneny's Sixteen Propositions.

Some matters have changed since then, some for the better and some for the worse. Mr. Burroughs' casual remarks concerning "medical aid" would, I think, be couched much differently had they been written after 1982.

One immediate concern is the author's inopportune use of the Tongs as a model. He is, of course, speaking of a simple mutual aid association or benefit society. Such things have a long history and are hardly a novel concept or a difficult proposition. In American English, however, the word "Tong" has come to mean a violent crime syndicate devoted to trafficking in narcotics. Perhaps Mr. Burroughs' famous familiarity with drugs allowed him to overlook that aspect and focus on the other qualities inherent in the Tong. Not a few people would be unable to make that separation, and it would probably better to employ some other term that does not suggest so many extraneous possibilities. 'Landsmanshaftn' would be another possibility, though here lies the trap of inflaming the imaginations of people who are allergic to Zionism. Any of a number of names might be applied to a fraternal organization, though. They are just words. Probably the safest to use would be 'mutual aid association.' Indeed, I know of at least one urban Gay community center (in Edmonton) which is officially organized as a mutual aid association, though I have not heard that they provide the explicit benefits of such an association. No doubt the phrase has specific legal definitions in some jurisdictions.

Mr. Burroughs dangles the prospect of physical defense from violence, legal aid, medical aid, job and housing aid and advice, a social meeting place, and recreational facilities as the reward for forming such organizations. There is little to argue with there. One might add the care and housing of our youth to the 'job and housing aid and advice' category, along with both finishing their educations and continuing the education of all members. He also points out that "It may be argued that the gay ghetto already performs these services. Some do, to be sure." The ghettos are not what they once were, but some of these services still are provided. Many large cities in the US (and other places) have a Gay community center. The curious thing is, as old and common as the mutual aid association is, no "Gay Tongs" existed when Burroughs suggested them and nothing very much like them has spontaneously arisen in the interim. I have to ask: if this thing is possible and desirable, why has it not already happened?

Now... of course this thing is possible.

Banks and credit unions are not very inscrutable concepts. It may not be 'simple' to form a successful one as a business, but it is hardly impossible. There are Gay bankers. I can name some of them. Why, then, is it not commonplace for some fellow (or couple) who is inclined to 'settle down' to simply negotiate a mortgage from some Gay financial institution?

Real Estate may be a tricky business to run well, but it is not impossible. Certainly, there are Gay Realtors. They do advertise to a Gay clientèle. Many even own their own Real Estate companies rather than acting as employees of straight companies.

The same can be said for employment agencies, educational institutions, insurance companies and health maintenance organizations, even security companies (both private and public -- there are Gay police officers, and many cities have at least a liaison officer for the Gay community). None of these things are impossible for Gay people. They are so not impossible that there are Gays in all of these professions.

One might, as Burroughs has, say that the problem is one of a lack of organization.

The problem can be phrased that way.

"Organize, organize, organize" is a constant refrain, especially among the Left in the US (or what has become of it -- the chorus was louder and the tempo was more frenetic in the 80s and earlier). You would think that this is some sort of magical mantra that can effect wonders if only it is intoned properly and often enough. It's not. The way people go on, you would think that the Gay community had no organizational abilities whatsoever. To the contrary -- I do not think there is even one cause of interest to the Gay people that does not have some acronym-named organization devoted to it.

Ah, but there is no national organization, there is no international organization, there is no unified effort; false and false -- a pile of falsehood (except for the 'unified' part... that's true enough). There are any number of national organizations. Pick a country, any country, and, unless you are being needlessly contrary and selecting someplace like Yemen, you will find some national Gay organization that aspires to do at least something. Any number of organizations at least claim international status... often in their very names.

This brings me to this "affreuse frivolité." It is true that any group must transcend its weaknesses in order to protect its interests. This idea, though, that we, as a people, "could never get together on anything" is absurd and manifestly false. It's quite enraging some days to hear this charge leveled time and time again. The opposite is true, you know. We spawn organizations like salmon. Gay organizations breed like rabbits. The idea that Gay people are inherently more argumentative than some other group of people is just plain false. It's born, I think, from both a lack of knowledge about the travails of other organizations (read about the insane schisms that beset the early Zionism movement or, for a proper education on the subject, the history of the factionalism in the early Communist movements) and an unhealthy preconception about how an oppressed people surely ought to be unified and of one mind. Visit any Parents Teachers Association meeting, stop by some condominium association meeting, even some trade union meeting; 'solidarity forever' indeed. People are fractious. Get over it. We have a remarkable habit of not sharing the same mind. This is a virtue, not a vice. Yes, people disagree, often very strongly, and organizations routinely carry on their normal functions against the expressed wishes of those who have dissented. Now, those strange organizations that value consensus above all things don't carry on against the expressed wishes of those who dissent -- it's been my observation that such groups generally don't "carry on their normal functions" at all.

I have hypothesized a different trait in Gay culture that has nothing at all to do with 'frivolity' that may be at work in this perception that Gays "could never get together on anything." We shun. As a society, we lack just about every instrument imaginable for societal control. We have norms, as a people. We do. It's been my observation that, when a group of Gays is faced with some disruptively non-conforming behavior, apart from a sharp escalation in "drama" (the rattlesnake's rattle in warning), we cast people out. I find we do this reflexively, both as individuals and in a group. It's about the only tool we have, and we use it.

An example: a young man in his late teens is being escorted to the local club for the first time by his newly selected clique. This ought to be, by the way, Lesson One in coming out and coming home: find your clique, do it quickly, and pick carefully. Thereafter, make some effort to both contribute and continue to belong. You start out with a free pass, later one must earn one's continued membership. The young man, who by all custom is obviously accompanied, obviously unavailable at the moment, and obviously ought not be accosted, is accosted anyway by some fellow. Perhaps the guy has had too much to drink. Perhaps he is unfamiliar with the customs. Perhaps he is just stupid. The results are predictable: the clique swarms. Youths, especially those who have been 'adopted' are not unprotected creatures. To outside observers, the ferocity of rebuke is quite surprising. After all -- Gays enjoy a peculiar reputation for being mild-mannered. I can't imagine where it comes from... certainly not from within Gay culture. This fellow's only option is to apologize -- immediately and profusely. It would have been better had he not caused affront at all. The apology might not work. If he does not, of course... he is instantly a social pariah, at least with that clique. He is cast out. There is no returning from that... not so long as anyone remembers. Should the situation sadly escalate to include further affronts and other cliques become involved, this fellow will find himself quite quickly cast out from pretty much all interaction with the local Gay society. (You will find an echo of this little drama played out with HRC these days -- they have been seen to transgress, and grievously. A multitude of other organizations in the community have spoken against it. HRC must now quite carefully navigate the consequences, or the organization will fall, and fall completely. Think not? Watch and see. Already the equivalent of immediate and profuse apologies has taken place. What we are watching may look like simple organizational lobbying, but it is really a trial, a capital case. Social death is one possible outcome. Will HRC survive it? It remains to be seen, but I suspect so, at least in part. They did back-pedal quite promptly when rebuked.)

There are Gays who insist that there is no Gay culture, no society. They don't see it. I have to suspect that these poor creatures have been cast out in this very way. They are being shunned; of course they cannot see the Gay culture. Gay Republicans wonder (they do... which says very little for their intelligence) why the simple act of "coming out" as a Republican should have such... less than pleasant... consequences in social settings. The practice extends to corporations from time to time. We are a boycotting people. It's what we do. It is the first and best sanction for unacceptable behavior, and we do it all the time, pretty much all of us.

So, when disputes arise in an organization, as they inevitably and quite naturally will, there comes a point when the organization's impulse is to obtain consensus by expelling the dissenters. As draconian as that is, it quite often goes unnoticed because the first impulse of the dissenters is to 'expel' the troublesome organization. High levels of disagreement lead to organizations literally exploding when all factions decide to utterly shun one or more others. I'm told this happens to the Sydney Mardi Gras organizers on a nearly annual basis. We've seen the Gay Games split into two different events with two different organizing committees. As a society, perhaps we should be less inclined to schism and more inclined to solidarity, but then a failure to sacrifice for the sake of solidarity seems to usually be the specific affront that causes the expulsions and schisms in the first place. More likely, our society needs to learn to give up the myth of solidarity.

There is one other consideration. Of course we can get together. Even Burroughs' points out that it seems only to be some of us who cannot. We get together all the time. Forming organizations is a habit for us. We have a lot of them. We just don't have organizations along the lines Mr. Burroughs describes. In the area of defense in particular, there are almost no efforts made at all by the Gay community; not now, not ever. There have been some, to be sure. There is an effort in that direction today. In the past they have received no support at all and I predict the current efforts will receive none either. It's not a lack of organization. Oh, no... there is no conceivable lack of organization. There is a lack of what might be called "federalism." No Gay organizations function to transfer resources or services from regions that have them to regions that do not. That, you see, would require some sort of identity. Why can we not seem to support perfectly reasonable efforts to secure the physical safety of our people? Because that would require some sort of identity. There would have to be a "we" to do these things. Police power, after all, is the purview of the state, of the municipality, of the society. Note that these things are more properly termed the heterosexual state, the heterosexual municipality, the heterosexual society. There already are police in Sydney, after all. Why should the Gay people of Sydney police their own neighborhoods? How dare the Gay people of Sydney derogate the right to defend themselves from the rightful authority of the Sydney Police? In short, how dare the Gay people of Sydney (or any of the other cities planning such activities) presume to be anything other than residents of Sydney? Police power requires an identity.  So too would any region-spanning effort to do anything like what Mr. Burroughs suggests. The Gay people are entranced by the dream of inclusion in the already existing "we" that is the heterosexual society.  There is no Gay "we."

You can read it in any of a number of comments posted to stories about the Sydney policing effort -- "it looks like it's more about revenge than anything else." Any effort to provide a needed service to Gay people is greeted with "but it's so exclusionary. I thought we were above all that." Gay people, like all people, have certain needs. Those needs aren't all that difficult to meet. The structures that meet these needs are generally called "civilization" or "culture." As a people, we can easily come up with every apparatus to meet those needs. Now, the effects might not be identical to some other system that exists to meet them. The apparatus that exists to meet people's needs in Canada is quite different from the apparatus that exists in, as a casual example, Azerbaijan. If you look at the innumerable Gay organizations that currently exist... what is their purpose? Which of the needs of the Gay people are they designed to meet? It seems to me they are all locked into a perpetual war with the straight people. They simply insist upon being "included." The Gays in Germany have no lack of organizations devoted to their own front in this war. The Gays in the US seem to think this particular war shall be won by some magical inclusion of every letter of the alphabet in organizational acronyms, so many fronts have they opened in this war. At the root of it all is a simple premise: my sexual orientation ought not matter. They all of them seek to fulfill the needs of the Gay people by forcing the existing heterosexual apparatus to serve.

The thing of it is, it does matter.

And I rather think it ought to matter.

So the straight people don't like us... what of it? It's not like they're entirely welcome at our parties anyway.

What remains is just how far are Gay people willing to take this bizarre battle of turning something that self-evidently does matter into something that does not? One example will suffice here, though parallel examples can, no doubt, be produced for any of a number of topics. A phenomenal number of Gay youth in the US are homeless. Actually, this problem seems to be fairly consistent throughout the West. Statistics that at first seem quite improbable end up being repeated -- it seems that one in four Gay minors are either cast out from their homes, often violently, or are forced to leave by the threat of violence. There are millions of teenagers on the streets (or more commonly on the couches of their friends) in the US. There are millions more in Britain, and many thousands in Canada. Probably there are still millions more elsewhere. A quarter of our most vulnerable people. The alphabet soup of Gay organizations curiously thinks that some sort of eternal war with the heterosexual monopoly on Child Services to oblige them to care for these youths as they care for the heterosexual ones is in order. After all, their sexual orientation ought not matter. Would it not be more sensible to house these kids, feed them, clothe them? In all seriousness, if their sexual orientation did not matter, most of them would not be homeless. Keep in mind that the "success" the alphabet soup has achieved to date is that some program directors no longer claim to have no Gay charges. Some programs have even admitted the existence of Gay youth to the extent that they are willing to try to count them. Imagine that -- counting children, when what is needed is housing and clothing and food and education and a modicum of actual concern for their well-being. But at least they are (in some places) willing to count them. Most of them do an excellent rendition of certain presidents when they say "we have no Gay children in our system. I don't know who told you that we did." (The Gay kids themselves are the source of this news of their existence, by the way... as usual.)

The care and feeding of youths is not an arcane science. The Gay people can manage it quite well, were they to attempt to do so. The education of youths is also not all that arcane, though it is generally best given over to professionals rather than amateurs. All the statistics in the world about the plight of Gay youth in schools (pretty much any country's schools) seem only to be marshaled in this ridiculous eternal war with the straights over "inclusion." Why is there only one Gay school (so far as I have been able to determine) on the entire planet, and but a handful of supplemental programs? Because, foolishly, the Gay populace in general, everywhere, has bought into this myth that their sexual orientation ought not matter. They've bought into this myth that the eternal war can, if only they apply themselves long enough and with enough solidarity, be eventually won.

What a very pretty thought.

I wonder, though, just how many kids are to be permitted to die each year for this pretty thought? I'm not willing to go so high as even one. It is a material problem, with a material solution: house them, feed them, educate them... ourselves. Why is this far simpler solution not acceptable? The same goes for housing: cannot Gay financial institutions finance homes for Gay buyers, cannot Gay landlords rent to Gay tenants? Cannot Gay security forces bring law enforcement to places where the heterosexual monopoly willfully will not? Why is this simpler solution not acceptable?

Whatever the answer to that question is, it is the answer to Burroughs' questions. "Can they function effectively in an organized context? Can they establish units that will operate over a period of time? Can they extend the services of the gay Tongs to any area of America? " It's also the answer to my own. "If this thing is possible and desirable, why has it not already happened?

My own speculation on the matter is that it is not a question of "can." Of course we can, and yes, of course there would be disagreements and conflict and altogether too much drama. There would be schisms and periodic collapses. We're quite used to that though... we do it all the time and will continue to do it until we learn not to.  Instead, this matter is a question of "will." As a people, of course we can do these things. We clearly, as a people, don't want to do these things. We want to do something else entirely... we want an eternal war for an impossible objective.

I note that even Burroughs cannot escape the trap of 'inclusion' for the sake of public relations. Mr.  Burroughs' example of street violence is somewhat dated. It was a remarkably topical concern in the early 80s as that was the beginning of a remarkable surge in violent crime in the US. While the subject of street crime has remained a concern in the Gay neighborhoods that survive, it has become less urgent in the greater society. Gay people ought, I think it's clear, to live in territorially discrete places. Gay services are easier to administer in Gay territory. The ghetto simply cannot be all places. It just can't. Naturally, street violence in Gay territory is within the operational jurisdiction of the Gay people's police power. The security of the Gay people depends not only on the physical defense of Gays, but also on securing public order in the neighborhood as an end to itself. The orientation of some attacker or some victim is not really at question here -- the "orientation" of the neighborhood is. Gay neighborhoods ought to be defended from violence. If some heterosexual passer-by happens to be safe thereby, how happy for him. Offering up some nation-wide militia of Gay crime fighters to defend all people in all neighborhoods as a public relations scheme is a nonsensical fantasy -- it is the eternal war all over again. It would not have been a useful strategy back when it was a "hot topic" among straight people and it certainly is not a useful strategy now that it no longer is. This conflict is won, not by 'inclusion,' but by separation. By this I do not mean stomping off in some fit of pique, I do not mean shunning heterosexuals out of some sense of animosity. I mean taking care of your own business because it is your business and not someone else's.

If there are dirty dishes in your kitchen, wash them. Do not harangue your neighbors about how they must include you in their housekeeping. Do not rail about how the fact that you are not a member of their household ought not matter. Just do your damn dishes, then they will be done. Leave your neighbors to do theirs in peace.

A mutual aid association, or a number of them, could certainly integrate any number of efforts to provide much-needed services to the Gay people. Franchises of this association could spread extend these services to any number of places in the world. A vertically integrated corporate approach to solving these problems will work. Of course it will. It might even work spectacularly well. What is needed at this point in time, however, is not a mutual aid association -- it's the will to have such a thing, an acknowledgment that 'we' exist and are worth such a thing, and understanding that the countless other costly efforts the Gay people have been undertaking are almost without any merit at all. First we need to know that our sexual orientation does matter. After that, mutual aid associations would go a very long way toward solving any number of problems facing the Gay people.


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